No Diner Left Behind

in Dining

Spectrum’s commitment to dining satisfaction extends to those with special dietary needs.

Healthy, nutrient-dense foods are important at every stage of life, but as we age, our nutrition needs begin to shift, often requiring special diets.

“Our body composition changes as we get older,” says Katie Painter, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Denver, Colorado. “We have less muscle mass, so our energy needs may decrease and our basal metabolic rates may begin to decline.” Plus, people ages 65 and older should keep sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams or fewer per day, Painter says.

These special dietary concerns are high on the radar for Spectrum Retirement Communities. “We offer options for dining with the top diets that seniors face today, such as the NAS [no-added-salt] diet,” says Dennis Van Wynsberghe, Spectrum’s vice president of dining services. “We already don’t cook with salt, so we’re in a good position to provide that.”

Spectrum dining rooms also readily accommodate community members who need low-sugar sweets or carbohydrate-controlled diets to regulate blood sugar. They offer finger foods for those who have difficulty using utensils, and with doctor’s orders, they provide allergen-free items and texture modifications, such as purées.

The Spectrum dining team uses multiple strategies to meet special-diet needs. They start by offering a wealth of selections at every meal — including multiple entrees and alternative sides — allowing diners to choose what is best for them. They also provide a Special Diets menu to complement the regular menu (see below).

“It takes all the daily options that are available and breaks them down, so that everyone on these special diets can pick something on the menu,” Van Wynsberghe explains. “It considers portion control and offers substitutions. For example, if they can’t have starch, they can pick an extra vegetable. Then they can eat off the regular menu and not have any issues. Or if they should have less of a certain item, it says how much is OK.”

A diet board posted in the kitchen also helps chefs keep track of residents’ special diets, allergies and preferences. “This is especially important in our memory-care communities, where we are extra-vigilant in making sure people get what they need,” Van Wynsberghe says.

Part of this vigilance comes in the form of including family members in meal planning whenever necessary or desired, he adds. Spectrum provides education and consultation for family members, and often works with community members and their families to map out meal selections a week in advance.

All of this attention to special diets ties in with Spectrum’s dining motto: No one leaves the dining room unhappy. “Quality food is so important,” Van Wynsberghe says. “That’s why we have so many options, and we do whatever we can to make sure we’re meeting our resident’s needs.”

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